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BRUSSELS – A 3-year EU life cycle assessment study to evaluate alternatives to fluorine-based durable water and oil textile repellents (DWOR) has concluded that fluorinated formulations have a negative environmental impact “10 – 40 times larger” than fluorine-free alternatives.

The same study also confirms that while fluorine-free water repellent coatings can do the same job as their fluorine-based counterparts, these alternatives don’t perform anywhere near the same level as traditional ‘C8’ and ‘C6’ fluorine based finishes when it comes to oil repellency.

This will come as no great surprise to chemists in the textile sector, but it does coincide with new claims by other scientists that replacement PFASs (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) may be just as bioaccumulative as original (legacy) PFASs that are being phased out – and are, therefore, not necessarily safer.

If correct, this finding could have significant implications for product substitutions and EU policy.

One industry expert heavily involved in the fluorochemistry sector told us that short-chain PFHxA – a degradation product from the manufacture of intermediates used to produce some short-chain fluorinated polymers (ie., C6) – could be restricted by the EU as early as 2021 and maybe phased out altogether by 2025. 

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